I’ve written a lot about my obsessive nature and the advantages and pitfalls to living life on the laser. You already know I’m obsessed with fishing, but you may not be aware of the fact that I am also obsessed with baseball, specifically the Red Sox. Before any of you non-Sox fans get your hackles up about my team of choice, please remember that I am just another human being that likes baseball and fishing—we should be friends, right? I was also raised in Massachusetts and my grandfather once yelled at my friend Jeremy in fourth grade for wearing Yankees hat to his house! It’s kind of like that.
During the years that Boston makes the postseason, my brain goes into a period of short circuit; I will not miss the game, but I also will not miss the fishing. The games always feel intense, even when they hit two grand slams in back-to-back innings, and they are flavored with tinges of my youth as my dad and two brothers chime in on a group text, bouncing in from Maine, Pennsylvania and central Mass. Even though we’re not lined up on the couch in Westborough where we grew up, it still offers enough of that distant illusion to make it feel like we are.
The problem is that the games run late and then I leave to fish and I’m getting home at 4 a.m. and sleeping on the couch, day after day, which leaves me feeling twice as exhausted. Then you stack a bunch of those nights on top of each other and I find myself needing to find a robotic level of concentration, where I can ignore the pain of exhaustion long enough to numb it with the adrenalin of a screaming drag.
After game 6 of the ALCS, where the streaky Sox succumbed to the Astros, I was disappointed and… just… done. Plus, I had promised my dad that I would put in a day’s labor scraping 100 years of paint off his porch the following day. I slept like garbage that night, maybe because my brain knew I should be fishing, after a full day on ladders scraping endless layers of paint, I was toast. I drove the 90 minutes home and crashed out. The next night, I saw the forecast, a powerful nor’easter was set to gather south of Long Island and barrel up the coast, 6- to 10-foot waves and gusts to hurricane force. I knew I had to go.
My wife climbed the stairs, looking back like she expected me to follow and I dropped the news on her. “I have to go.” She nodded. I changed the hooks on one of my battle-worn Hab’s needles and slipped into my damp wetsuit. I hedged my bets on a favorite location with a weak tide, knowing it might flatline. I cheered myself on, reminding myself that anything can happen in October. Unfortunately, when ‘anything’ is on the table, one of the options is falling on your face, and after 90 minutes casting from a proven rock, I had one 26-incher to show for it.
But October allows you to choose your own destiny—you can accept defeat and sleep or you can press on and ask for another card. I chose to push on. If only I had room here to tell you about the hoops I had to jump through to park thanks to a locked gate. But I found my way in and walked the mile to the shallow hump. I tied on that Hab’s and cast until I finally got a decent blowup. With a few changes I found what they would eat and ended the night with a solid late-inning rally—five fish, four of them between 21 and 32 pounds.
I walked in the door at 4:15, knowing I had to be awake at 7:30 to get my daughter ready for school. I blamed the Sox for my late nights becoming early mornings, but in retrospect, the blame has to fall squarely on me.
I apologized to my wife that morning for getting home so late so often, she smiled and said, “It doesn’t matter to me, it’s your sleep.”